Connect with us

Spread & Containment

Xbox and Special Olympics hold first ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ esports event

Gaming in general is moving towards accessibility, but that’s not as much the case in esports, which like other sports are competitive and by nature somewhat exclusive. Xbox and the Special Olympics are working together on a new event that combines…

Published

on

Gaming in general is moving towards accessibility, but that’s not as much the case in esports, which like other sports are competitive and by nature somewhat exclusive. Xbox and the Special Olympics are working together on a new event that combines competition with inclusion, and it’s going on right now.

This week, Special Olympics athletes will be competing against each other in tournaments of Rocket League, Madden NFL 22, and Forza Motorsports 7. The prize, other than prestige and pride, is playing with one of the Special Olympics’ celebrity supporters: “NBA superstar Jayson Tatum, NFL legend Jamaal Charles, and WWE Superstars.”

“This tournament is a meaningful and important step in making esports more accessible and it empowers Special Olympics athletes with a new way to compete,” said Jenn Panattoni, Head of Xbox Social Impact. “Xbox has invested in numerous accessibility features and products, like the Xbox Adaptive Controller and features like copilot or speech to text. The purpose of all this continued work is to ensure that players feel welcome and that they belong on the Xbox platform.”

The tournaments are being recorded right now, and will be broadcast over the rest of the week, along with the “celebrity showcase” coming Saturday with recaps. You can check out a schedule at the bottom of this post, but generally just keep an eye on the Xbox Twitch channel and Special Olympics YouTube channel.

I like to highlight these events because accessibility has been on the back burner for so long in the gaming world, and now we’re seeing big moves by developers, publishers, and partners to make things better. Microsoft’s XAC is a great example, as is the panoply of visual, audio, and difficulty options in the latest Ratchet & Clank game. Esports is definitely one of the areas that needs more diversity, though, and the participating players were glad to take part. I asked Special Olympics Jose Moreno and Colton Rice for their thoughts on the matter.

Do you think competitive gaming is getting more accessible?

Rice: Competitive gaming is definitely getting more accessible. Not only are the games becoming more accessible, accessibility allows people with disabilities to become more competitive players. People with intellectual disabilities are always trying to compete at their best. We want to do what everyone else is doing, and sometimes just need a little help to make that happen.

Moreno: I do think that competitive gaming is getting more accessible because Microsoft has started bringing out video game controllers that are accessible for people with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities – accessible to everybody. I’m a lifelong gamer, and accessibility in esports has been game-changing. Accessible gaming wasn’t available when I was growing up. Today, it’s so much more fun to play when you can play with friends of all abilities and everybody can participate.

Special Olympics athletes Colton Rice, left, and Jose Moreno.

How are you experiencing that change?

Moreno: In my opinion, the more the video games industry include people with intellectual disabilities, the better the video game community is going to get to know how we love playing video games just like everybody else. And through events like Gaming for Inclusion, I’m not just able to compete – I’m included as a part of a community of gamers where I am welcomed and included.

Rice: People with intellectual disabilities have skills and pay attention to details; when we set our minds to do something, we practice until we are the best we can be especially when we enjoy doing it – and that includes gaming. People with disabilities just need more time to learn, but when you’re dedicated to something that you’re passionate about, you won’t stop until you succeed.

What’s something you’d like to see more of, from developers, publishers etc?

Moreno: I would like to see more from developers or makers or publishers of video games in general or computer games to include more people with intellectual disabilities in the video game workforce. People with intellectual disabilities can play a variety of roles and provide unique perspectives on how to improve the gaming experience. Publishers and developers can get a different perspective from people with disabilities; whether that’s featuring people with intellectual disabilities represented in their storylines or seeing them in the games themselves. We’re eager to be a part of this process, and there are lots of passionate gamers with intellectual disabilities who would like to participate in focus groups or in actual jobs as creators within the industry.

Rice: The companies who make these games are trying to make high quality games that are enjoyable for everybody. There is still a lot that can be done to make games more accessible. For example, it can be frustrating when gamers with intellectual disabilities are learning a new game with instructions that are hard to read. It can take hours to learn how to play the new version of a game you’ve played for years. That doesn’t mean people with intellectual disabilities aren’t capable of playing or competing – it just means we need better accessibility tools to help us learn.

If gaming companies want to create accessible, inclusive games, they could benefit from including gamers with intellectual disabilities in the creative process to help make or test “easy read” or beginner’s instructions, or find ways to simplify navigation between different levels of a game. Gaming can build a community and reach people who feel left out. Accessibility allows everybody to have fun.


This competition and other events in online gaming have been essential to keeping the Special Olympics community connected and active over a difficult couple years.

“Special Olympics has a long-standing partnership with Microsoft that has been incredibly valuable for the athletes and families of the Special Olympics movement,” said the organization’s Chief Information and Technology Officer, Prianka Nandy. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, our main concern has been the safety and health of our athletes, who are amongst the most vulnerable population to have an adverse or catastrophic outcome from the virus. This led to the cancellation and postponement of thousands of annual in-person events and competitions – which meant our athletes have missed out on the connections and opportunities to experience the joy of being with their teammates, coaches, and friends. At this time, our goals remain to raise awareness of the Special Olympics movement and the accomplishments, hopes, and dreams of our incredible athletes, and to change attitudes towards people with intellectual disabilities within the gaming community, all while remembering that gaming can be fun and inclusive for all.”

Read More

Continue Reading

Spread & Containment

Costco Stock Forecast and Review

When looking at a Costco stock forecast, there are a few things to watch out for. The predictions for growth continue for investors.
The post Costco Stock Forecast and Review appeared first on Investment U.

Published

on

Costco (Nasdaq: COST) is currently the world’s 3rd largest retailer by revenue (behind Walmart and Amazon) and is well known for offering wholesale prices to its members. To start with a Costco stock forecast, it’s important to understand the business…

For just $60 per year ($120 if you go with the “Executive Member” plan), Costco members can save money on gas, groceries and just about every product in between. Costco also owns the highly-coveted title for “The World’s #1 Seller of Rotisserie Chickens.”

Costco opened its first store in Seattle in 1983 and today has grown to 815 warehouses. From the get-go, its strategy has been to eliminate all the “frills” associated with retailers in order to cut costs. By cutting its operating costs to the bare minimum, it’s able to save money and pass these savings on to its customers. Common retail expenses that you won’t find at a Costco location are salespeople, fancy buildings or delivery options (groceries excluded).

Costco Saves for Customers and Investors

Over the years, Costco has become popular for saving its members tons of money. However, to shop at Costco you need to join its membership program which currently sits at just under 110 million cardholders. This equates to at least $6.6 billion in annual recurring revenue for Costco. However, the loyalty that this membership builds is worth much more than $6 billion.

When you sign up for a Costco membership, Costco automatically becomes your de facto place to purchase goods. Almost without thinking, you’ll pick Costco over Target, Walmart or Amazon because you know that you’ll save money by shopping at Costco. On top of the savings, you also want to make sure that your $60 per year commitment doesn’t go to waste. When it gets a new member, Costco wins twice. It gets $60 in annual recurring revenue and it also gets a large chunk of that person’s daily spending, potentially for the rest of their life.

Programs like Amazon Prime and American Airlines’ AAdvantage program have been successful for similar reasons. After signing up, Amazon Prime members will slowly get in the habit of ordering everything from Amazon. They want to take advantage of free 2-day shipping. Also, some diehard AA members will not even consider booking with another airline because they want to ensure that they’re getting rewarded for flying (through AA miles).

With this in mind, should you include Costco stock in your portfolio, even if you don’t have a membership card at home?

Let’s take a quick look at a Costco stock forecast as well as a few predictions for the stock moving forward.

Costco Stock Price Forecast

Note: I’m not a financial advisor and am just offering my own research and commentary. Please do your own due diligence before making any investment decisions.

Costco is scheduled to announce earnings on September 23, 2021.

In today’s investing environment, so much relies on the coronavirus pandemic. Did the company have a business model that thrived during the pandemic? Did it capitalize on this position? Will this success continue now that the pandemic is mostly over? In Costco’s case, these answers are yes, yes and yes.

Costco was undeniably a Coronavirus winner (check out these telemedicine stocks as well). People were prepping for the COVID-19 quarantines like it was the apocalypse and Costco’s wholesale-style business is literally designed to help people save money while prepping for the apocalypse. What’s surprising, however, is that Costco is actually getting more traffic now than it was B.C. (Before-COVID).

According to foot traffic data from Placer Labs, Costco’s monthly visits were up 13.8% in July 2021 as well as 12.8% in August 2021 (when compared to 2019 numbers). During its December 2020 earnings report, it reported that revenue from memberships rose 7%. It’s likely that many people opened a new Costco membership in hopes of saving money while it stockpiled quarantine supplies. Now, even though the pandemic is over, this buying habit remains.

Notably, Costco’s success is not an outlier within the industry. Other wholesalers like Sam’s Club and BJ’s have also experienced higher traffic.

Costco Stock Predictions

Costco is scheduled to announce earnings on September 23, 2021. Analysts are expecting EPS of $3.54 and revenue of $61.45 billion. Both of these numbers are higher than the previous quarter where analysts were expecting EPS of $2.28 and revenue of $43.28 billion.

Costco has beaten its last four revenue predictions as well as three out of four of its EPS predictions. However, since investors have set a higher bar for Costco, it may be more difficult for it to reach it. It’s very possible that Costco reports an increase in revenue but still falls short of investors’ expectations, which could result in a lower stock price.

In 2020, Costco posted total revenue of $166.7 billion and a net income of $4 billion. This completed five years in a row of growing revenues with an average yearly growth rate of 7.57%. Costco also has a dividend yield of close to 1% and razor-thin profit margins of 2.4%.

Costco’s stock was up about 30% in 2020 and is up 200% over the past five years.

Is Costco Stock a Buy?

When making a Costco stock forecast, there are a few things to watch out for.

Mainly, record inflation numbers recently could hurt Costco’s profitability in the short term. Since Costco is known for low prices, it will likely do its best to avoid raising prices even as inflation pushed its costs higher. A similar situation happened with Kroger recently. Higher costs with the same prices would mean less profit for Costco, who already operates on razor-thin margins.

If you’re looking for stocks that can profit on inflation, check out these agriculture stocks. They can pass along increasing costs to customers over time.

On the bright side, Costco was able to use the pandemic to thrive in both the short term and (potentially) the long term. Costco added more memberships during the pandemic, which should result in more loyal shoppers and higher revenues for the years to come. When looking at the long-term Costco stock forecast, the outlook certainly looks rosy. This is especially true since Costco dominates the wholesale retail industry as it faces little competition from Sam’s Club and BJ’s.

The increase in Costco’s membership is also important because Costco is due to raise the price for its membership fee. On average, Costco increases its membership fee by about 10% every 5-6 years. Its last increase was a few years ago, so this fee should be coming in the next 18 months or so. Due to the immense size of this program, even a 10% price increase would boost revenue from memberships by at least $660 million.

Its membership fee is a significant contributor to its gross margin, so this extra revenue could have a big impact on profitability as well as Costco’s stock price. Of course, this is assuming that the membership price increase doesn’t also lead to a drop in total memberships.

As usual, assigning a Costco stock price prediction in the short term is always difficult. This is especially true because there are plenty of other factors that could hurt the market overall. Market-wide moves could hurt Costco stock.

For example, there are rumors that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates. This increases concerns over inflation, as well as a stock market that has run 90% since its March 2020 low. These are all things to keep in mind when determining whether or not to buy Costco stock in the short term. With that said, Costco stock is certainly positioned well for continued success in the years to come.

Investing Beyond Costco Stock

I hope that you’ve found this Costco stock forecast to be valuable in helping you determine a Costco stock prediction! As usual, all investment decisions should be based on your own due diligence and risk tolerance.

If you’re looking for even better investing opportunities, sign up for Wealthy Retirement. It’s a free e-letter that’s packed with tips and tricks. You’ll hear directly from bestselling author Marc Lichtenfeld. He’s an income expert who literally wrote the book on getting rich with dividends.

The post Costco Stock Forecast and Review appeared first on Investment U.

Read More

Continue Reading

Spread & Containment

Potential COVID-19 Treatment Found in Llama Antibodies

The need to uncover effective COVID-19 treatments remains imperative, as case counts remain steady eighteen months into the pandemic. Recent findings point to unique antibodies produced by llamas—nanobodies—as a promising treatment. The small, stable,…

Published

on

A significant milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic was crossed this week. The number of deaths in the United States due to COVID-19—more than 675,000—has surpassed the number of deaths that occurred during the 1918 flu pandemic. In addition, there are still roughly 150,000 new cases every day. Eighteen months into the pandemic, the need for effective treatments against COVID-19 remains as great as ever.

One possible treatment, neutralizing single domain antibodies (nanobodies), has significant potential. The unique antibody produced by llamas is small, stable, and could possibly be administered as a nasal spray—an important characteristic as the antibody treatments currently in use require administration by infusion in the hospital. Now, new research shows that nanobodies can effectively target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The team from the Rosalind Franklin Institute found that short chains of the molecules, which can be produced in large quantities, showed “potent therapeutic efficacy in the Syrian hamster model of COVID-19 and separately, effective prophylaxis.”

This work is published in Nature Communications in the paper, “A potent SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing nanobody shows therapeutic efficacy in the Syrian golden hamster model of COVID-19.

The nanobodies, which bind tightly to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, neutralizing it in cell culture, could provide a cheaper and easier to use alternative to human antibodies taken from patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

“Nanobodies have a number of advantages over human antibodies,” said Ray Owens, PhD, head of protein production at the Rosalind Franklin Institute. “They are cheaper to produce and can be delivered directly to the airways through a nebulizer or nasal spray, so can be self-administered at home rather than needing an injection. This could have benefits in terms of ease of use by patients but it also gets the treatment directly to the site of infection in the respiratory tract.”

Credit: Rosalind Franklin Institute

The research team was able to generate the nanobodies by injecting a portion of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein into a llama called Fifi, who is part of the antibody production facility at the University of Reading. They were able to purify four nanobodies capable of binding to SARS-CoV-2. Four nanobodies (C5, H3, C1, F2) engineered as homotrimers had pmolar affinity for the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Crystal structures showed that C5 and H3 overlap the ACE2 epitope, while C1 and F2 bind to a different epitope.

Regarding their effectiveness against variants, the C1, H3, and C5 nanobodies all neutralized the Victoria strain, and the highly transmissible Alpha (B.1.1.7 first identified in Kent, U.K.) strain. In addition, C1 neutralizes the Beta (B.1.35, first identified in South Africa).

When one of the nanobody chains was administered to hamsters infected with SARS-CoV-2, the animals showed a marked reduction in disease, losing far less weight after seven days than those who remained untreated. Hamsters that received the nanobody treatment also had a lower viral load in their lungs and airways after seven days than untreated animals.

“Because we can see every atom of the nanobody bound to the spike, we understand what makes these agents so special,” said James Naismith, PhD, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute. If successful and approved, nanobodies could provide an important treatment around the world as they are easier to produce than human antibodies and don’t need to be stored in cold storage facilities, added Naismith.

“Having medications that can treat the virus,” noted Naismith, “is still going to be very important, particularly as not all of the world is being vaccinated at the same speed and there remains a risk of new variants capable of bypassing vaccine immunity emerging.”

The researchers also hope the nanobody technology they have developed could form a so-called “platform technology” that can be rapidly adapted to fight other diseases.

The post Potential COVID-19 Treatment Found in Llama Antibodies appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

Read More

Continue Reading

Spread & Containment

Addressing the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Working in partnership will be key, says Alex Kalomparis, vice president, public affairs, international at Gilead Sciences. 2021
The post Addressing the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia appeared first on .

Published

on

Working in partnership will be key, says Alex Kalomparis, vice president, public affairs, international at Gilead Sciences.

2021 marks 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported. In that time, over 79 million people have been diagnosed with HIV, with more than 36 million dying from AIDS-related illnesses, more than any other infectious disease.

While there has been incredible progress in the HIV response, nearly 38 million people are living with HIV, with more than a million new cases every year, jeopardising the goal to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

HIV places enormous burdens on the communities it affects most, straining health systems and government budgets. In the era of the global COVID-19 pandemic, where health systems are already stretched to breaking, it is tempting to cut costs in other areas, including HIV. If commitment to the HIV response wanes, the progress we have made is at risk, leading to increases in new infections in regions that can least afford to tackle them.

“An epidemic somewhere is an epidemic everywhere”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the temptation to focus on one’s own backyard, isolate oneself from the rest of the world, and believe one is safe and protected. We know now that this protection is an illusion. Regardless of the protections we erect in our own countries, allowing public health crises to persist in other parts of the world threatens our own progress and safety.

The message is clear: an epidemic somewhere is an epidemic everywhere. To find our way out of a pandemic, we must broaden our ideas of how to respond, and address the problems and inequities that allow diseases to thrive in other parts of the world. To be effective, our response must be global.

The same is true for HIV. HIV has persisted for 40 years, and is still here because root problems continue to drive the epidemic: stigma and discrimination, poverty, lack of access to services and treatments, lack of access to education, and the marginalisation of the people and communities most at risk of HIV. These are not issues that can be addressed by any one government, group, or company. They can be addressed only in partnership with one another, and by engaging those key marginalised communities in our effort to end the HIV epidemic.

Whilst the global community has the tools it needs to meaningfully address new HIV infections, HIV is on the rise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA). Unlike other regions in the world, rates of HIV in EECA have increased, with infections up by 72 per cent, and AIDS-related deaths up by 24 per cent since 2010.

Working with the Elton John AIDS Foundation

However, across EECA, a range of community partners are making significant contributions in the fight against HIV, such as the first wave of the RADIAN ‘Unmet Need’ fund and Model City grantees, previously announced in 2020. In the first nine months of the programme, these partners have already reached more than 12,000 people from vulnerable communities directly with services, initiating life-saving care in over 2,000 people living with HIV.

RADIAN, a ground-breaking partnership between Gilead Sciences and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, works with local experts to target new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in EECA in the communities most vulnerable to HIV.

Focusing on the groups most affected by HIV in EECA (eg men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who use drugs), RADIAN engages with groups led by these communities and are sensitive to the difficulties unique to the region.

“We all have one common goal: ending HIV”

Anne Aslett, CEO of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, is clear that for the partnership to reach its goals, it’s crucial to listen to and amplify the voices of people for whom HIV is a tangible, daily reality.

“They understand better than anyone the challenges associated with the virus, and what works to stop it. No matter where we are in the world, we must partner with them, and follow their leadership. We are proud of our RADIAN partnership with Gilead, to champion the vital work of communities to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.”

Companies like Gilead Sciences provide industry leading expertise, while Governments bring an understanding of health systems and funding, developing an infrastructure that enables access.

However, these efforts need community leadership because they know best how to ensure people can access those systems to get tested, and adhere to medication. They understand the fears and sensitivities, the strengths and stigma within those communities, the nuances that make the difference in linking their members to the care they need. No two regions of the world experience the ‘same’ HIV epidemic. People living with HIV are critical to the success of any HIV response.

This autumn, RADIAN will launch a campaign telling the inspirational stories of ordinary, yet remarkable, community members who are taking action to turn the tide of the HIV epidemic in EECA.

We all have one common goal: ending HIV. It is crucial that we all understand the role we can play to achieve this. Our access to global networks of public health expertise, government funding, and innovative HIV treatments are meaningless unless they are used in service of people living with, and at risk of, HIV. They are the core of any successful response, regardless of country or region. Working in partnership with them is the key to ending HIV. By respecting them as leaders and giving them the seat at the head of the table, we make our work more effective and responsive to local needs, bringing us closer to the end of the HIV epidemic globally.

About the author 

Alex Kalomparis is vice president, public affairs, international at Gilead Sciences. He joined the company in January 2017 and is responsible for all communications and patient advocacy activities across Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Prior to that Alex held senior communication roles with a number of consumer and pharmaceutical companies, including Unilever, Rolls Royce, Novartis, Roche, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

The post Addressing the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia appeared first on .

Read More

Continue Reading

Trending